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Q&A AUGUST 8 , 2001
The State of 3D Animation

Straight talk with 3D industry professionals

by Stephen Schleicher
[email protected]

In the last 15 months the animation industry has seen quite a few changes take place. To some, the industry has gone from phenomenal growth to decline, while others insist that everything is just fine. In one day a company may be hiring like mad, while another is laying off talent because work has left the country for parts unknown. Despite continued creation and distribution of animated and effect laden features, commercials, television programs, and Internet shorts, the actual state of the Industry is still up in the air.

I've mentioned before that I routinely visit CG sites to check out what kind of great work animators and CG professionals are turning out, I also take the time to visit some of the "chat" groups that abound on the Internet. If you have not checked these groups out, I suggest you do so as often they are populated with industry professionals who are working on some very interesting projects, and once the chat community gets to know you, everyone is willing to speak their mind on what is right and wrong with their profession. Thus was the case a few weeks ago when I began chatting with many of the regulars in a popular animation channel. This spun off into a great panel discussion that includes many animators and industry professionals.

The Panel
It's great to know so many people working in the industry. Not only are they willing to take the time to sit down and talk about what they are doing, they are super friendly people.

Mark Sylvester, Ambassador
As a co-founder of Wavefront Technologies in 1984, Mark helped to develop The Advanced Visualizer, a 3D computer animation system first used at Universal Pictures, and co-designed Composer, a high-end compositing system that's still going strong as a tool for many feature films. With his grounding in the industry, Mark also articulates Alias|Wavefront's vision of the role of computer graphics for today and the future.

Joe Alter, Founder
Joe Alter, Inc
Prior to founding the company in 1999, Joe Alter has worked in visual effects since 1985 starting at industry pioneer Robert Abel/Assoc. Over the years Alter has done work for George Lucas's ILM, Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks SKG, Roland Emerich's CentropolisFX, Warner Bros., Boss Film, Metrolight Studios and Phil Tippet Studios.

His most notable feature production (key shot) work includes The Prince of Egypt, Godzilla, The Mask, Star Trek:Generations and Cliffhanger. Currently Joe is programming Shave and a Haircut: Extreme for the LightWave and 3dsmax communities.

Dave Campbell, Strategic/Product Marketing Manager—3D
With an extensive history in animation production, Dave Campbell's in depth knowledge of Discreet's 3D Solutions provides him with a solid understanding of the needs of today's ever-changing animation market. Currently, his focus is on driving the vision and direction of Discreet's animation marketing activities. Before joining Discreet, Campbell served as an animator/compositor at one of the pioneering studios behind today's burgeoning PC-based production arena—Blur Studio in Venice Beach, Calif.

Gregg Lukomski, Motion Picture VFX Artist
As a freelance 3D camera tracker and match mover, Gregg has worked on many projects. Some of his most notable feature work includes Gone in 60 Seconds, Disney's Dinosaur, Zooander and Don't Say a Word. Currently Gregg is the Animation Technical Director for Disney's Treasure Planet, integrating traditional 2D animation with 3D virtual sets.

Daryl Bartley, CGI Animator
Daryl has been working with Saban Entertainment since 1999, creating effects for Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, as well as work on Xyber 9, NASCAR Racers, Los Luchadores and numerous television movies.

Rowsby, CGI Animator
Currently Freelance
Rowsby has worked for Foundation Imaging, where he completed work on Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles, Max Steel and most recently Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future. His freelance client list includes corporations from Alcoa to Zippo.

Digital Media Online: Thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedules to talk. With so many questions, I guess the first place to begin is by asking, what is the current state of the industry as you see it?

Daryl Bartley: That's really hard to say. More of it is being done than ever, but more people are out of work than ever. I think the same thing is capable of happening to 3D that happened to 2D.

Dave Campbell: I think animation is in a great place right now. Sure, there are always concerns on the production side about where the next job will come from—and any ups and downs in the industry are in many ways a natural part of the cycle.

But animation itself, be it for use in feature films, games or design, is becoming more accessible to a wider range of people, and the hardware and software involved is making the process of getting the art done much easier.

Mark Sylvester: From a pure numbers position no one can ignore the thousands of positions that have been lost in the [last] 12 months. This is having ripple effects in everything we experience, both at work and in our personal lives. We are making different decisions about our entertainment dollars than we did last year. Consumers are torn between spending $10 on the next cool film, buying the latest game for their console or saving up for the next great gadget.

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Stephen Schleicher is the producer of DMNTV, Digital WebCast and Digital Animators and is the host of the Digital WebCast forum at the World Wide User Groups. He has taught at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, and at the American InterContinental University in Atlanta, Georgia, where he also ran his own animation company, Thunderhead Productions. Stephen also freelanced in the Atlanta area as a producer/editor for five years working on everything from training videos to live shows.

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